Polis Prospects for the Summer of 2012

I’ve finally begun to slowly shift my attention from my academic year tasks to my summer goals. I’m just starting to think a tiny bit about our work at Pyla-Koutsopetria this summer (more on that next week), but I’m slowly getting more and more excited about the plan for Polis. Scott Moore and I head to Polis after we wrap up excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria. Right now we have three plans for the Polis season all involve the continued study of excavated material and architecture from the site of EF2.

Last season, we focused primarily on the architecture and stratigraphy of the Early Christian basilica style church at the site. In 2012, we will continue our work to document that building and expand our study to include other contemporary (or potentially contemporary) structures in the larger EF2 area.   

Jpg E F2 Late Antique Plan with Burials final  1

1. The West

The western part of EF2 is perhaps the most complex and interesting part of the site. It has two main features that are directly significant for our work at the EF2 basilica. The first is a Roman period quadraporticus that stands at the intersection of two roads through this section of the city (it is not visible on the plan above). We do not have a clear sense of the chronology of this structure and one of the key questions is whether it continued to stand into Late Antiquity. If it did continue to stand, then it would have formed an architectural complement to the western part of the basilica . We have this lovely vision that narthex of the basilica echoed the arched form of the quadraporticus which was the other monumental building in the area.

We are also interested in the small water feature situated immediately adjacent to the southwest corner of the basilica narthex. It is visible on the plan above as a small apsidal structure. We have reason to suspect that this feature was contemporary with the basilica but we have no idea when it was built and when or whether it underwent changes. It seems to have been a spring house and we know that such features would have been important landmarks in the urban fabric.

Further west from these features are a number of smaller buildings, perhaps work shops, and what appear to be domestic structures of uncertain date. By starting to unpack the western part of EF we hope to be able to contextualize the neighborhood of the church here and determine how it fit into the social and architectural fabric of the town.

We also hope to understand the relationship between Roman structures in the area and the massive leveling effort upon which basilica stood. The material in this leveling course seems to date to the 2nd to 3rd century – that is two centuries earlier than the date of the basilica – and it would be valuable to understand whether this dates to the time of the basilicas contraction or an earlier re-organization of this neighborhood. 

2. The East

Last year, we mistakenly felt like we had the eastern side of the basilica fairly well problematized. The main issues surrounded the portico that ran along the south side of the church and the architectural and chronological relationship between the apse and the walls of the aisles and nave. While we have not necessarily come to absolute conclusions on these issues, we at least thought that we knew where to focus our attention.

This winter, however, two new structures appeared which might be contemporary with the church. The two rooms immediately to the southeast of the southeastern corner of the south portico may well be contemporary with the church. Their positions suggests that they form the eastern limit to a possible southern atrium to the church which ran between the southern portico and the nicely paved road visible along the bottom of the plan above. This would be more or less consistent with other basilicas on the island which often featured atria surrounded by buildings. In fact, the room that we have worked to study at Pyla-Koutsopetria is probably exactly such a structure for the south facing atrium of that church.

It is also interesting that the ubiquitous graves respect the walls of these rooms in some cases and cut the walls in other cases suggesting that they may have been standing for part of the life of the church and then fallen out of use later. Sorting the relationship between these rooms and the eastern part of the church will be a significant priority for this summer. 

3. The Sherds

All of our work about relies on getting the ceramics rights. While we can most likely sort the relative chronology of the strata in each trench, we have not had too much luck linking the various level across trenches. As a result, the date of the ceramics present in each strata become vital for attempting to coordinate building sequences across a site excavated over 20 years.

As we identify particularly secure strata (that is to say single context strata or strata that represent single depositional events) and particularly diagnostic artifacts in the myriad artifact trays neatly arranged in the Polis storerooms, we also need to illustrate key artifacts and determine whether we can make any arguments from the chronological or typological distribution of artifacts across the entire site.

 

Of course all these more focused research questions depend upon our continued routine work. This involves reading tray after tray of pottery that has not been studied since it was excavated. It also involves digitizing Polis plans, keying notebooks, and building Harris Matrices for each trench. All this is routine work and pretty tedious, but as you can see, the research questions and potential outcomes will shed new, valuable light on the fabric and society of a Late Antique neighborhood on Cyprus.

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